The Historic Canal Experience

“Low bridge, everybody down
For it’s low bridge when we’re coming to a town
You can always tell your neighbor,
You can always tell your pal,
If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.”

Did you know that while famous, “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal” is not an authentic Erie Canal folk tune? While it does describe the canal experience accurately, it was actually written after the canal’s heyday. We learned that (and a whole bunch of other facts about canal life!) when we visited the Miami & Erie Canal Historical Canal Experience in June!

The Historic Canal Experience is part of the Metroparks Toledo system, and is located a bit outside the city in Grand Rapids, Ohio. The canal links Toledo to Cincinnati, from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.

You can walk through the Ludwig Mill, a working water-powered saw and gristmill. It’s a fascinating place, and I really enjoyed seeing all the machinery needed to get the job done. We went all the way to the top floor, and a few of us even ventured down to the basement to see where the water comes in!

I always find it interesting when a location has a flood record for posterity’s sake…1904 was a rough year!

The train bridge is a reminder of how quickly the canal’s usefulness came to an end once the railroad came through the area:

The best part of the experience is the ride on The Volunteer, a replica of an authentic mule-drawn canal boat. We got to see how the men and mules moved the boat through the locks, and we were treated to a musical experience the day we went, which made the history come alive in a unique way!

I really didn’t know anything about mule-drawn canal boats before this experience, so it was a great opportunity for all of us to learn something, and I really enjoyed it!

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